Disfellowshipping and shunning – a not so loving arrangement

Far from being a loving provision, Watchtower's disfellowshipping arrangement causes real harm
Far from being a loving provision, Watchtower’s disfellowshipping arrangement causes real harm

The hurtful practice of disfellowshipping (or shunning) engaged in by Jehovah’s Witnesses has been defended by apologists as a loving and righteous arrangement approved by God Himself.

It is interesting to note that many times when arguing against the Trinity doctrine, Jehovah’s Witnesses will relish the argument that the word “Trinity” is not to be found anywhere in the Bible. Well, the word “disfellowshipping” isn’t in the Bible either, but that doesn’t stop Witnesses from enthusiastically implementing this practice.

Apologists will often misquote from among the few Bible verses that are intended to suggest merely limiting association with those considered harmful to one’s spirituality. (1 Cor 5:11) Such scriptures never imply that wayward Christians should be altogether abandoned and never spoken to. Christ said that those who do not listen to the congregation should be considered as tax collectors, with whom he was known for sharing meals. (Matt 18:17; Mark 2:15-17) And Paul’s words at 2 Thessalonians clearly state that those who are “not obedient” should continue to be entreated as brothers. (2 Thess 3:15)

Ruling through fear

The Jehovah’s Witness faith is led by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, a small group of highly controlling men who rule through fear and punishment. I would know, because I was a volunteer at their World Headquarters in Brooklyn, New York (Bethel) during the 1980s. I lived with these leaders and got to see the fruits of their “tree” first hand. – Matt. 7:17-20

Journey to God's House gives a  revealing insight into what life in Bethel is really like
Journey to God’s House gives a revealing insight into what life in Bethel is really like

In my book, Journey To God’s House, I describe a very controlling and punishing type of religion. Having been a Witness almost from birth, I didn’t know any better as to how to respond to this type of control. One story I tell is that of a powerful brother at Bethel who saw fit to complain about the underwear I chose to wear, which he noticed because we changed in the same locker room.

Rather than entreating me respectfully about it, he tried to control me by hurling hurtful epithets my way. That’s right – a so-called “mature older man” resorted to name-calling with a young idealistic volunteer over nothing more than my wearing of colored briefs.

In retrospect, what business was it of his what kind of underwear I was wearing anyway? After I stood up to my overseer for calling me names in front of my friends, I was convinced I would get kicked out of Bethel – such is the way Jehovah’s Witness leaders think. They can threaten you, insult you and ultimately eject you at any time if you don’t toe the line.

The disfellowshipping practice is one of Watchtower’s best ways of controlling the “flock.” Shunning has gotten so out of hand that it can be wielded for any number of reasons. (For a list of reasons, click here) All you need to do is say you don’t really believe the year 1914 has any significance in Bible prophecy, or accept a blood transfusion to save your child’s life. Do any such thing, and you should brace yourself for brutal reprisals.

Bad association – shunning on a whim

But what is not often discussed is the paranoia surrounding “bad association.” This can be more insidious than disfellowshipping in my opinion, because at least with disfellowshipping you have a kangaroo court of elders charged with doing the deed. Marking someone as bad association is something any individual JW can do on their own.

In my final story in Journey To God’s House I relate how simply leaving Bethel was enough for me to get “marked” by everyone at Bethel I had ever known. Because I didn’t have a satisfactory excuse for leaving, and simply wanted to go home and start a family and have a normal life, I was marked as a spiritual loser to be avoided. It was as though I had a disease that was contagious.

In the end, however, I believe these practices have done more harm than good to the faith. People are seeing the religion for what it really is. I left the Witnesses myself due to the unloving conditions I endured over the years. Thanks to the influence of extreme mind control it took me many years to figure it all out.

But now that my eyes are wide open, I can see that in the end it is I who “marked” them.







Brock Talon is the author of Journey To God’s House – available from Amazon on this link.

145 thoughts on “Disfellowshipping and shunning – a not so loving arrangement

  • November 9, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    Bullying may be defined as the activity of repeated, aggressive behavior intended to hurt another person, physically or mentally. negative actions occur ‘when a person intentionally inflicts injury or discomfort upon another person, through physical contact, or through words.

  • November 9, 2013 at 8:24 pm

    excommunication is a censure and thus a “medicinal penalty” intended to invite the person to change behavior or attitude, repent, and return to full communion. It is not an “expiatory penalty” designed to make satisfaction for the wrong done, much less a “vindictive penalty” designed solely to punish.

  • November 10, 2013 at 5:14 am

    Milo, I do not think that you can compare shunning to a medical issue. Is that because you believe the shunned one is mentally deseased?

    I am not being cold to ones in other countries. Wherever one lives, there will be an established law of the land. If there isn’t one, then one would still have to alert the other members of the congregation about a molester in their midst. Not to do so would place others in danger.

    Of course, even in countries where there is an independent judiciary, the WTBTS choose not to involve the authorities anyway!

    Another argument that doesn’t cut it, I’m afraid.

    If you have read the articles on the cover ups of child abuse how do you respond to them?

    Do you think it is acceptable to fail to inform the authorities about an alleged abuse of a minor? Do you expect ones who have been abused to “wait on Jehovah” because there is only one witness to the abuse?

    If you do, then we have reached the point where I can no longer debate with you.

    I will leave you with a final question on this issue. What would you do? You have a daughter. What if she were abused by a member of the congregation? Would you expect to have to “wait on Jehovah” to put it right, without even informing the authorities that a child molester was in the congregation? I sincerely hope that this never happens to you and your child.

    As for this medicinal shunning – I don’t accept this interpretation. It assumes that the WTBTS has everything right in its interpretation of scripture, and that anyone disfellowshipped has committed a crime worthy of potentially a lifetime of shunning. That everyone shunned is spiritually sick. I don’t think that many of the so called crimes that ones are disfellowshipped for are a sickness at all, but a waking up to the facts that have been obscured from them.

    If you have read the articles and you still think that the WTBTS is a worthy recipient of your loyalty then that is your choice. We are not going to agree, and that is fine.

    To place any child in the invidious position of having to “wait on Jehovah” whilst a pedophile continues to abuse with impunity is a monstrous abuse of the two witness rule. I find it completely immoral and contrary to the teachings of Christ.

    My final comment is this. In no passage of the gospels does Jesus shun anyone. Why do his followers shun?

    Yes, I’m afraid that we have reached the end of the road. I have expressed my opinion, and have tried to counter your sometimes bizarre logic with firm facts.

    The fact that you seem fine with the child protection in the WTBTS really fills me with fury and pity for you.

    Let’s hope that nothing happens to someone you love, the way it did with Candace Conti, or all those other victims.

    Remember, each of those victims was someone’s child. They are real people who have been betrayed by their religion. Don’t you have any pity for them? I am sure that you do.

    So what are you going to do now? Are you going to answer my hypothetical question about your own child? Again, I sincerely hope that you don’t have to face this in reality. I am sorry that I have to place this issue in such a personal way.

    Here is what I would do if anyone abused my child in the congregation. I would immediately inform the police and I would expect the congregation to assist in the investigation fully. I would want the perpetrator arrested, tried and convicted by a jury of his peers, and forced to sign the sex offenders register for life. I would then expect this person to be expelled from the congregation. The salient points of this case would be kept at Bethel and the details of any convicted of this crime would be available to view by any member of the congregation.

    That is what should happen in a loving congregation. Anything less would be sacrificing children for an earthly organisation’s reputation.

    Peace be with you


  • November 11, 2013 at 3:45 am

    Milo, I notice that you have posted on other articles, but you haven’t answered my hypothetical question.

    I’m waiting.

    Peace be with you


  • November 11, 2013 at 8:26 am

    Dear Skally,
    COULD you PLEASE stop Using CAPS in your POSTS as THEY are BECOMING somewhat ANNOYING!!!!
    Ta from a GRATEFUL Geordie/SCOTSMAN!!

  • November 21, 2013 at 5:52 am

    Thank you for your posting. I am new to this sight and new to checking out what my beliefs really are in the WT. I have read your personal story and others like it. I myself have had several horrible experiences while being in the “true” religion for some 30 years now. Yes JW’s are VERY judgmental when it comes to anything you do spiritually. If your not dressed to their standards, if you are not sharing their opinions that end up going around like wildfire in the KH, if you are not using every spare moment of your time preaching, studying or preparing for the meetings you are sub par even though everything is on a voluntary basis. Whatever is going on in your life whether you are being molested by the Popular Elder in your congregation, being slandered by the Wonderful Pioneer Sister in your congregation, or being shunned by the “Worthies” in your congregation as long as you attend meetings and comment at meetings and are putting in a gazillion hours every month nobody cares about the rest. Just get your butt in the seat of the KH so numbers look wonderful at every meeting. Just put in all kinds of hours in every month so that it looks great in the publications every year and just shut up about anything that is wrong or out of place! By the way it is against the law to mandate the time you volunteer. They can’t tell us how many hours to put in or how many meetings to attend and they can’t tell you how often to study or when to study. These are things that are happening on MY time as a volunteer!

  • January 3, 2014 at 8:59 pm

    I am 80. Very alert, and k ow exactly what i am doing, and left the org 5yrs ago, after not agreeing with so many things,all my family except my youngest daughter are JW,s, she left, and her daughter too.
    Since then we have been shunned, and it has broken my family up completely.the Govn body, as it’s called, certainly will eventually be accountable, maybe not in my time.how can they live with themselves at MY funeral.when they havent been the loving family that I thought I had raised., they were my whole life.
    Is this the Love of god, to be abandoned. Now…..

  • February 28, 2014 at 4:51 am


    I am sorry that your family have learned conditional love from the WTBTS.

    Narrowing salvation to a mere eight million followers of a publishing company in America is not what the bible says.

    Everyone, it seems, is a bad association! Yes, everyone who does not blindly follow eight men is a bad association.

    How far they have fallen!

    It must be some comfort that your youngest daughter is still part of your life.

    I would suggest writing your will to exclude all those that have shunned you. And make sure you tell them that, too.

    The WTBTS’ strangle hold on Christianity is faltering. They are losing their grip. Every day, it seems, a new leak of unChristian, hateful bile is put on the internet.

    Their days of dominance are waiting. One day they will face the full brunt of the law and they will receive their reward in full.

    Peace be with you


  • February 28, 2014 at 5:52 am

    Dear Yvonne, join the club, I have been there too and have lost family and now I am seriously ill. I have been through hell with this group, and as so many others have said, there is no honorable way out. It is a very dangerous cult, and one that has destroyed the lives of many, and it will continue to do so until radical action is taken. Why would God choose an American Cult to be his chosen instrument, and an instrument whose doctrines changes like the wind? I thought God is a God that never changes? And when it comes to being kicked out, one then has 7 days to appeal. If this is being directed by God, why would one have 7 days to appeal? I thought if God makes a decision on something that he doesnt change once he has made that decision? I doubt that there is 8 million followers, as some 2 million have left since the year 2000. I think they are massaging the figures just like everything else they fabricate. I wish you well Yvonne.

  • April 14, 2014 at 3:00 am

    If I may ask. How long has shunning been apart of their beliefs? Aren’t members told that this will happen to them if they chose that path. And why would you want to force yourself on someone who doesn’t want to talk to you? Go into the funeral and be there for your friend that died. Don’t go there to rub salt in an already open wound. Does that sound like something the Christ would do? I just don’t understand the logic in trying to fight with someone who isn’t interested. It seems like a waste of time for both parties

    • April 14, 2014 at 3:24 am

      Hi Jake

      As recently as 1947, disfellowshipping or “excommunication” was denounced as being “altogether foreign to Bible teachings” in an Awake! magazine…

      It was only a short time later that disfellowshipping was formally introduced in 1952…

      “Particularly since 1952, Jehovah’s Witnesses have given increased support to an arrangement that helps to protect the congregation—that is, the disfellowshipping of unrepentant sinners. Of course, truly repentant wrongdoers are lovingly helped to ‘make straight paths for their feet.’—Hebrews 12:12, 13; Proverbs 28:13; Galatians 6:1.” – w06 5/15 pp.24-25

      And finally, in 1981, disfellowshipping and disassociation were both deemed worthy of shunning, making it impossible to leave the organization without being punished for doing so…

      “Persons who make themselves ‘not of our sort’ by deliberately rejecting the faith and beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses should appropriately be viewed and treated as are those who have been disfellowshiped for wrongdoing.” w81 9/15 p.23 par.16

  • March 22, 2015 at 9:40 pm

    I remember one time when I was receiving “council” for sitting with my disfellowshipped father at meetings… the brothers used a scripture that says something like, ‘I (jesus) came with a sword to divide and whoever choses mother, father, brother, or sister over me is not worthy of me’ It made feel like I had to choose between God or my family. How do you respond to that?

    • March 23, 2015 at 4:05 am

      babydoll80. I can’t remember where it was anymore but I think the Society used to teach that but later they said it’s okay to sit with them.

      One of the first things the “Bible study books” tell new students is to expect opposition from family and friends and they drill that into a new student that God comes before everyone else so you become a sociopath, losing your feeling for your family members. You are led to believe that God owns you and you owe your life to God and whatever “he” says which is really whatever the Society says, is what you have to do because supposedly God is telling you that.

      Are you still a Witness? How long ago was that?

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